Book review of “Playing To Win” from Harvard Business Review

A renowned figurehead in the consumer product arena, A.G Lafley is held in esteem with his decades of experience in turning business units around. In his latest book with Roger Martin, Lafley concisely distills how companies can go about winning, and draws on specific examples from his P&G stint in doing so.

To Lafley, winning begins when business leaders are able to craft a way forward in the following five areas and follow each of them through: i) winning aspiration, ii) where to play, iii) how to win, iv) core capabilities, and v) management systems.

All strategy begins firstly with creating a compelling vision that people would all rally around and support. That drive then translates to the type of playing field that one would like to be involved in before deciding how one would like to win. This then brings one to zero in on one’s core capabilities that become the fuel to propel the machinery forward. Lafley opines that a company needs to “invest disproportionately in building the core capabilities that together produce competitive advantage.” It should then use management systems subsequently to ensure that the processes are running through seamlessly, efficiently, and effectively.

While each part of the entire activity system does not need to be unique in order to create long term competitive advantage, the activity system as a whole has to be inimitable.

At an individual level, leaders are encouraged by Lafley to maintain “assertive inquiry” when it comes to crafting strategy and the approach to doing so successfully requires three key tools. Firstly, advocating one’s position and then inviting responses. Secondly, paraphrasing what we believe to be the other person’s perspective and inquiring on whether we have understood that perspective correctly. Thirdly, explaining a gap in our understanding of other perspectives, and asking for more information. Inquiry, Lafley opines, “leads the other person to genuinely reflect and hear your advocacy rather than ignoring it and making their own advocacy in response”.

The good: the authors reinforce learning points at the end of each chapter. Each concept is well-harnessed with specific examples from Lafley’s experiences at P&G.

The bad: while it is good for practitioners, this book may not be strong for academics and researchers apart from the examples that they can glean from.

Overall, an excellent read. Highly recommended for those who are involved in strategic planning and management!

J.CJ, Editor

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2 thoughts on “Book review of “Playing To Win” from Harvard Business Review

  1. Pingback: Homepage

  2. Reblogged this on Dannyivanshaw and commented:
    Practical and useful in the field, strategic planning is an art and the techniques for allowing a voice in creative planning is a quality personality trait.

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